31 December, 2011

Tree

Almost every day I photograph this tree near my office window - always from the same angle, the same zoom, and about the same time of day. I've used a favorite image from last winter and a bit of magic from Adobe Photoshop® for this greeting.
TGB   

Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.

29 December, 2011

{this memory} 32

Not much of a mystery here. Not much distance in time either.

This is from Christmas Eve - five days ago. In Family Of The Bride I described what Christmas Eve is like in the Brown household. What you are seeing in this image is the youngest member of the clan being the first to open a few presents.

My great great nephew is the young fellow in the center. I'm not sure he quite had the hang of tearing into a package; he was pretty careful. Actually, I do have a younger great nephew, but he isn't home from the hospital yet - so he may lose out on the 'being first' honor.

The young man in front of him is his father, my great nephew. His mother is sitting just beyond him. The young lady on the extreme right of the photo is my niece, and the two ladies in the far background are my two daughters.

Another Christmas has come and gone in the Brown household, the 27th in this house, and I can look back on many happy memories. I am truly a fortunate man.
TGB   

28 December, 2011

Thom's Top Five

I've received a challenge from a writing group to which I belong, and it seemed quite appropriate as we close out the year. The Challenge: "Write and share a post with the group of your top 5 - 10 posts for the year" (two of mine are older).

We were told this could be based on traffic generated, comments received, personal resonance, what you believe was great but didn't seem to get noticed much, and so on. "This will be a great opportunity for us to all revisit each others year, and also for the newer members of the group to perhaps read something they missed out on."

The same holds true for my newer readers, and here a few I really like. I've sorted them into my own categories.

Fiction: Just Another Day

Wordplay/Poetry: Silence Of The Sands

Best Writing: Window On The World

Deserves More Notice: The Boobie Ultimatum

Disability: undifference

On the Lighter Side: I Now Pronounce You Oneshoeshy

Memoir: Hippie Feat

Most Read: Three Faces Of Tut

Politics: Bring Them Home

Life Lesson: Postponement

So there you have it - Thom's Top Five. Yeah, I know it's actually ten, and I had trouble keeping it to that! Which of those are the best five only you can decide. Please enjoy.
TGB   

27 December, 2011

Sunshine Superman, Part III

A few weeks ago I was given the Sunshine Award by Joy at Catharsis, and I soon began fulfilling each of the requirements of acceptance in Sunshine Superman. There were three of these: to thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it, to answer several questions about yourself, and to pass the award to as many as a dozen inspiring bloggers, link to their blogs, and let them know you gave them the award.

I postponed the completion of Number Three - mostly because all of the blogs I read were already being nominated. Then my good blogging friend Cathy at ~just my thoughts wrote:

"Now for #3. I am going to do things a bit differently here. I have won a few wonderful awards this year from fellow bloggers, and I am going to provide the links to those posts here. Then I am going to ask those of you who are sweet enough to comment, to add a link to YOUR favorite blog. That way we all win, and gain some new blogs to read and perhaps follow. :D"

I thought that was great idea and have done the same below.

        The Blog

        Thanks, Janine

        Thanks, Janine: The Sequel

        I'm Versatile, Part I

        And The Award Goes To

You will find some wonderful blogs listed in those posts, but unfortunately some of them are no longer in business. Nevertheless, I hope you find time to check them out.

I should also note that there have been a few other awards as well, but I never found the time to respond appropriately to them.

Happy reading. And please nominate some of your favorites.
TGB   

26 December, 2011

{this moment} 32

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.

{this moment}
Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.
TGB   

24 December, 2011

Tree

Almost every day I photograph a tree near my office window - always from the same angle and about the same time of day. Not this week. In keeping with the season, I offer you a different Tree in my life.
TGB   

Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

Next week our regular Tree will return.

22 December, 2011

{this memory} 31

This could be any Christmas Eve in the Brown household, but this one looks to be 2008.

Yesterday I wrote about the tradition of our Christmas Eve gathering, but embedded in that evening is the taking of a stairway photograph of this group - two daughters, one niece, two nephews, and assorted cousins (rarely spouses) from two generations. Last year the photo had three generations in it, and it's nigh time to extract all of the photos from their various locations and put them in a proper temporal sequence.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, and I can look back on many happy memories of Christmas Past. I am truly a fortunate man.
TGB

21 December, 2011

Family Of The Bride


In three days the family will gather.

I'm betting, however, you probably don't quite understand. The FAMILY will gather - as in alla famiglia. You see, almost 33 years ago I married Italian, and with that marriage came a very large extended family. In fact, with the exception of one uncle, until recently I was the only non-Italian. Yet somehow I am the only one who is actually likely to say Buon Natale.

My wife's father was born in Italy and immigrated to the US as a young teenager. My mother-in-law was born here, but both of her parents were Italian immigrants. For most of the 20th century, what is known as East Utica - where my wife was born and raised - was essentially a Little Italy. It's still heavily Italian but now also has lots of Bosnians, Vietnamese, and other ethnic groups. Utica's history has always been a story of immigration - currently mostly refugees.

But back to Italy. My wife's mother had four sisters and a brother. All married and then begat six cousins, one brother, and one sister for my wife. All of those also married. The next generation numbers at 21 plus spouses, and to date they have had 14 children (and a few spouses) with one more soon to be. There are only two so far in the youngest generation, but another is on the way.

Big family. Big traditions. At the time I attended my first Christmas Eve gathering, there would have been about 50 for dinner. It wasn't the Feast of Seven Fishes, but there were a couple of varieties of seafood plus meats and soup and a couple of pastas and salad and red wine and bread and fruit and nuts and sufficient cookies, if laid side by side, to reach all the way back to Italy. And coffee, of course - black (meaning espresso) or the other kind.

After dinner most of the males would get involved in poker or some other activity. At about the same time the gift exchange would begin, a very systematic gift exchange - not in terms of who gave to whom but in terms of the order of opening. The youngest child would open whatever was given first. Then the next youngest would have a turn. Males would be dragged in for their turn. This would continue to unfold until it was the turn of the eldest member of the family, my mother-in-law.

Today things have changed. All of that first generation are gone. In the second generation, three have died, some have moved to Florida, and the feast has migrated to our home. Nevertheless, dinner will unfold for almost 30 on Christmas Eve from four generations. Ora sono anche la mia famiglia.

The meal itself will be similar; only the cooks have changed. Males and females are now fully integrated in terms of cooking, seating, clean-up, gifts, and games - probably a generational thing. Presents will be opened - beginning with the youngest. There will probably be poker and perhaps some television. The torch has been successfully passed, and the traditions live on.

Questa sera la famiglia si riunirà. Tonight the family will gather, and among all of the delicious foods and the many gifts, mostly you will find love.

And on Christmas Eve of 2011, that will be my gift to me - to wish you similar peace and hope and love. Happy Christmas. Buon Natale.
TGB   


20 December, 2011

The Upside Of Candor


A Guest Post, of sorts ...

"We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:"

Dear Editor—
       I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon                           

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Francis P. Church  
1897  
The New York Sun   

19 December, 2011

{this moment} 31

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.

{this moment}
Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.
TGB   

18 December, 2011

Pearly Gates

Three good old boys died on Christmas Eve and were met by Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates.

"In honor of this Holy Season," Saint Peter said, "you must each possess something that symbolizes Christmas to get into Heaven."

The cowboy from Texas fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a lighter. He flicked it on and said, "This represents a candle."

"You may pass through the Pearly Gates," said Saint Peter.

The logger from Minnesota reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. He shook them and said, "They're bells."

Saint Peter said, "You too may pass through these Pearly Gates."

The old Iowa farmer started searching desperately through his pockets and finally pulled out a pair of women's panties.

St. Peter looked at the man with a raised eyebrow and asked, "And just what do those symbolize?"

"I thought it was obvious," the Husker replied. "These are Carols."
Author Unknown   

And The Christmas Season Continues ...

17 December, 2011

Tree

Almost every day I photograph this tree near my office window - always from the same angle, the same zoom, and about the same time of day. I've used a favorite image from last winter for my Christmas wish.
TGB   

Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.

15 December, 2011

{this memory} 30

It's Christmas, and I have a thing for all those lighted porcelain structures sold by Dept. 56. - which is why the Browns own a lot of real estate.

It all began with a few Snow Village houses as gifts to my wife - one a year for a few years. Today nine of them circle the tree just inside the train track. Then I became enchanted by the more realistic Christmas in the City items. They soon filled a bay window sill. Then I crafted a 16 square foot terrain for them which soon grew to 30 until it reached its maximum at nearly 50 square feet. Buildings, roads, street lights, people. It looked just like a city and had everything but a zip code - so real you wondered if it came alive while you slept.

Alas, it just got to be too much, but not before everyone became a collector - one daughter with Dickens' Village, another with North Pole Village. We even have a few Bethlehem pieces and a couple for Halloween, but those are rarely used.

Today we set up a few smaller cities around the house. What you see in the images is one I did of New York City a few years ago. Left to right in the bottom image you'll find an opera house, Times Square with the dropping ball (yes, it does and lights up), Radio City Music Hall, a toy store, the Empire State Building (with King Kong, my addition), Ebbets Field, a Hard Rock Café, and a fire station (for my brother-in-law). Statues, people, street lamps, street vendors, Rockettes, police car, limousine, small park - it's all in there.

I love Christmas, and I can look back on many happy ones with many more to come. I am truly a fortunate man.
TGB

14 December, 2011

It's A Wonderful Bike

I BELIEVE IN SANTA CLAUS. Yes, I do.
Sure, I know lots of adults don't, and if the truth be told, lots of children don't either. Nevertheless, I do - always have and always will. Please don't try to make something of it.

And it's not that people haven't tried to dissuade me from believing - even my parents, by the way.

Consider Christmas of 1960. We had moved into our new home in Virginia Beach in October of 1958, and this was our third Christmas in that home. I was 12 and was asking Santa for a new bicycle. Full size for this soon to be teen. Blue. Schwinn. Black Panther model.

My nearest neighbor - a year or two younger than I – had that bike, and I wanted one too. My friend's father, however, was a local TV celebrity - which is to say they had more money than we did and could easily afford to spend a little more. Santa brought a Schwinn Jaguar III model, the next “class” down.

I don’t really recall if I had been told to expect that model or not. I don't remember any discussion of the Black Panther vs. Jaguar III issue at all, but since I wasn't disappointed with the Jaguar III, I’m assuming I already knew. That can mean only that I had previously agreed with my parents on what I should ask Santa for.

Anyway, I was already in bed on Christmas Eve, but around 11:00 my parents called me to come downstairs. It seems they had begun to a uncrate the bike Santa had brought so that my father could assemble it. Unfortunately it was not blue, but red - not the kind of mistake Santa typically makes. They didn’t want me to be disappointed in the morning, and at the same time, showing me now might encourage me to begin to accept there was no Santa.

This had never really been discussed in our home, and although I knew my parents were skeptical, I never pushed it. So at the age of 12, I received my first suggestion of what most my age already believed, but I wasn't buying it. For me, Santa existed then and still does.

That bike is in my garage right now; I just went out and looked at it. It will be 51 years old in a few weeks and has a little rust, but I saw one just like it (without rust) for sale online at $2900. It doesn't matter; I'm keeping mine. It has come to symbolize far too much. For example, knowing that Santa sometimes makes mistakes has made it a lot easier to forgive myself when I do. That's a useful skill I recommend regardless of how you come by it.

And those Christmas bells. They "still ring for me, as they do for all who truly believe." I feel sad for you if you don't know that reference, but it's not too late. Go watch or, better yet, read The Polar Express. It might just turn you back into a believer, and how wonderful it would be to hear those bells again. BELIEVE. And just as important - tell a child you believe. It won't hurt you a bit, and in fact, watching that child's reaction might just begin to convince you it is so. Happy Christmas.
TGB   

13 December, 2011

Shall We Dance?

Ah - Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner in the 1956 version of The King and I. Sheer enjoyment. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but that's not what today's post is about, not directly anyway. Then again, maybe it is. Actually I'm not sure what this post is about. You tell me.

If you watch and listen to that scene here, by the way, later you can decide.

I was thinking about another scene in a different story depicting an encounter that, on second thought, is perhaps not all that different. The female lead said, "Do you enjoy dancing?" To which the male lead responded, "I thought that was what we were doing."

At this point in the story, they were relatively new to each other, and she was looking for information as she tried to get to know him. His comment, of course, wasn't really about moving rhythmically to music, as hers was, but about the metaphor. In his mind the new couple was engaged in "The Dance" - thinking and talking (or not) as they tried to learn how the other felt and what they liked and thought. Let's call it a ginger exploration - what you do as you test the waters or assess the limits. Oh my word, how any metaphors can I mix?! Although it's not defined well, I suspect you know what I mean. How would you define dance in this metaphor?

But back to Anna. She sings:

       We've just been introduced. I do not know you well,
       but when the music started, something drew me to your side.
       So many men and girls are in each others arms.
       It made me think we might be similarly occupied.

       Shall we dance? On a bright cloud of music shall we fly?
       Shall we dance? Shall we then say "Goodnight and mean "Goodbye"?
       Or perchance, when the last little star has left the sky,
       shall we still be together with are arms around each other

       Shall we dance? Shall we dance? Shall we Dance?


Rhythmic moving or metaphor? Did you watch? If you did, you know it's obviously both in this case. Lots of movement and lots being said, much without words.

Or ... maybe The Dance is just a hugely successful album by Fleetwood Mac or perhaps lyrics for The Eagles. Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

In the story I was recalling, by the way, they continued to "dance" and became great friends but never a couple. I can just see Bogie and Bacall sharing that dialogue. It wasn't, but it sure would have been perfect casting. I have to wonder, however, if Bogie would have changed the script so they ultimately became a couple.

So ... you know how to whistle, don't you, Steve?
TGB   

12 December, 2011

{this moment} 30

A Monday ritual. A single image (or two) - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.

{this moment}


Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.
TGB   

11 December, 2011

A Bridge To Hawaii

A man walking on the beach was deep in prayer. Suddenly the sky clouded above his head and, in a booming voice, the Lord said, “Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish.”

The man said he wanted a bridge to Hawaii so he could drive there. The Lord said, “Your request is materialistic. Think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking; the supports required reaching the bottom of the Pacific and the concrete and steel it would take! It will nearly exhaust several natural resources. I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire. Take a little more time and think of something that could possibly help mankind.”

The man said he wished that he could understand his wife and then thought for a time. Finally, he said, “Lord, I wish that all men - including me - could understand women. I want to know how she feels inside, what she’s thinking when she gives me the silent treatment, why she cries, what she means when she says nothings wrong, and how I can make a woman truly happy.”

The Lord thought for a moment. Then He replied, "Do you want two lanes or four lanes on that bridge?"
Author Unknown   

10 December, 2011

Tree

Almost every day I photograph this tree near my office window - always from the same angle, the same zoom, and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.
TGB   

Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.

09 December, 2011

Sense Of A Woman

Gentle Readers. I am taking a day off from writing but not to go shopping - even though Black Friday has come and gone without me. The season is upon us whether we shop or not, but I have some family matters to which I must attend.

I give you instead a guest post of sorts. I offer the following opinion piece by Ms. Anonymous - in the spirit, so to speak, of Christmas Future.
TGB  

I think Santa Claus is a woman. I hate to be the one to defy sacred myth, but I believe he's a she. Think about it. Christmas is a big, organized, warm, fuzzy, nurturing social deal, and I have a tough time believing a guy could possibly pull it all off. Santa has to be a woman because a man couldn't meet the demands of the job.

For starters, the vast majority of men don't even think about selecting gifts until Christmas Eve. It's as if they are all frozen in some kind of Ebenezerian Time Warp until 3 p.m. on December 24th when they - with amazing calm - call other errant men and plan for a last-minute shopping spree.

Once at the mall, they always seem surprised to find only Ronco products, socket wrench sets, and mood rings left on the shelves. You might think this would send them into a fit of panic and guilt, but my husband tells me it's an enormous relief because it lessens the 11th hour decision-making burden.

On this count alone, I'm convinced Santa is a woman. Surely if he were a man, everyone in the universe would wake up Christmas morning to find a rotating musical Chia Pet under the tree, still in the bag.

Another problem for a he-Santa would be getting there. First of all, there would be no reindeer because they would all be dead, gutted, and strapped on to the rear bumper of the sleigh amid wide-eyed, desperate claims that buck season had been extended. Blitzen's rack would already be on the way to the taxidermist.

Even if the male Santa DID have reindeer, he'd still have transportation problems because he would inevitably get lost up there in the snow and clouds and then refuse to stop and ask for directions.

Add to this the fact that there would be unavoidable delays in the chimney where the Mike "Make It Right" Holmes-like Santa would stop to inspect and repoint bricks in the flue. He would also need to check for carbon monoxide fumes in every gas fireplace and get under every Christmas tree that is crooked to straighten it to a perfectly upright 90-degree angle.

Other reasons why Santa can't possibly be a man:
- Men can't pack a bag.
- Men would rather be dead than caught wearing red velvet.
- Men would feel their masculinity is threatened by being seen with all 

        those elves.
- Men don't answer their mail.
- Men would refuse to allow their physique to be described - even in 

        jest - as anything remotely resembling a "bowlful of jelly."
- Men aren't interested in stockings unless somebody's wearing them.
- Having to do the "Ho Ho Ho" thing would seriously inhibit their 

        ability to pick up women.
- Finally, being responsible for Christmas would require a commitment.

I can buy the fact that other mythical holiday characters are men. Father Time shows up once a year unshaven and looking ominous. Definite guy. Cupid flies around carrying weapons. Uncle Sam is a politician who likes to point fingers. Any one of these individuals could pass the testosterone screening test.

But not St. Nick. Not a chance. As long as we have each other, good will, peace on earth, faith, and Nat King Cole's version of The Christmas Song, it probably makes little difference what gender Santa is.

I just wish she'd quit dressing like a guy.
Anon.   

08 December, 2011

{this memory} 29

The year was 1986, and my younger daughter was celebrating her third birthday.

She was a cutie pie, and I loved watching her gingerly open her presents - always in the presence of her large extended Italian family. I smile when I recall one great uncle to whom, for some reason, she just wouldn't talk - although to be fair there were lots of folks to whom she wouldn't speak. Aunt Bea and Uncle Bill were quite close to us though and together with my mother-in-law were usually our babysitters. She knew him quite well even if he didn't always stay for the evening, so I guess it will forever remain a mystery. She outgrew that phase, of course.

Today she is a beautiful, talented, and well-educated young woman, and I am immensely proud of her. I don't know where that quarter century went; the years just seemed to speed by. I'm lucky though because I can look back on many happy memories. I am truly a fortunate man.
TGB

06 December, 2011

Ann Marie

Our family lost another brave soul yesterday, my wife's older sister. She spent much of her last two decades in a nursing home as she coped with the assaults that multiple sclerosis continually made on her brain and spinal cord, but she was a kind and gentle woman. Although I have not seen her much in recent years, I shall miss her. She was 72 and a good person.

With surprising synchronicity, my {this moment} post yesterday had a picture of my younger daughter opening a birthday present. Behind her in the photo is her Aunt Ann Marie (although headless). It was her first appearance in my blog, and the timing of it has to make you wonder.

A blogging friend from Australia has shared this prayer which comes from the Apachean tribes who are centered primarily in New Mexico and Arizona. I find comfort in it.
TGB   
     
      May the sun bring you new energy every day, bringing light into 

          the darkness of your soul
      May the moon softly restore you by night bathing you in the glow 

          of restful sleep and peaceful dreams
      May the rain wash away your worries, and cleanse the hurt that 

          sits in your heart
      May the breeze blow new strength into your being, and may you 

          believe in the courage of yourself
      May you walk gently through the world, keeping your loved one 

          with you always
      Knowing that you are never parted in the beating of your heart.


05 December, 2011

{this moment} 29

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.

{this moment}
Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.
TGB   

04 December, 2011

Five From Emo



Today a depart a bit from my usual humorous story and offer a few tidbits from Emo Philips. Enjoy.

TGB


· When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bike. Then I realized, the Lord doesn't work that way. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me ... and I got it!

· So I'm at the wailing wall, standing there like a moron, with my harpoon."

· A Mormon told me that they don't drink coffee. I said, "A cup of coffee every day gives you wonderful benefits." He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well, it keeps you from being Mormon ..."

· I'm not Catholic, but I gave up picking my belly button for lint.

· When I was a kid, my dad would say, "Emo, do you believe in the Lord?" I'd say, "Yes!" He'd say, "Then stand up and shout Hallelujah!" So I would ... and I'd fall out of the roller coaster.

03 December, 2011

Tree

Almost every day I photograph this tree near my office window - always from the same angle, the same zoom, and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.
TGB   

Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.

02 December, 2011

One Flew Over The Parking Lot

Well, okay ... it wasn't just one. It was a flock of about 20, and they were ALL flying over the parking lot.

As I left the building where my afternoon meeting had just adjourned on a somber note, I walked into a windstorm. Literally. The wind was coming out of the west at about 30 miles per hour. With gusts to 40, it was breezy - to say the least. It even blew off the reading glasses hanging from my sweater.

As I grabbed for my glasses, I happened to look up, and there was a flock of crows - probably looking for a tree on which to cling - riding the wind and heading east, the easy direction. All but one anyway.

One was heading west into the teeth of the wind, but I have to admit he wasn't making much progress. He was just sort of hanging there in spite of his furious flapping. Holy black bird! In that wind even I had trouble going west, and that's with feet firmly on the ground. This intrepid fellow had no chance at all.

He would end up somewhere safe, of course, and probably with the others, but I wondered where was he going and why it was so important that he was willing to work that hard against such long odds. Was there something he knew that the others didn't? Was there something that I didn't know? Was this wind due to some massive alien craft to the east sucking up everything within miles? If so, his instincts were outstanding. Head west, fellow traveler.

But that's unlikely, and I'm unlikely to know what he was up to. He was gone by the time I made it into my car, but I continued to ponder his persistence and found parallels with my own behavior and probably yours too. Surely you have "fought the good fight" at some point.

I have been known to resist the prevailing currents and confront the powers that be, but I am usually careful about determining which struggles are worth the effort. After all, I have no interest in tilting at windmills and am more than content to leave that to the Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote. I do recall, however, the time a dear friend, who had been my executive secretary for over a decade, whispered in my ear, "Thom, this one's not worth it." She was right; it wasn't. It was a minor irritation and an argument I clearly would not win. She, more effective than Sancho Panza, had dissuaded me from charging those spinning vanes.

Nevertheless, it troubles me to see injustice sustained or incompetence rewarded. If I can make a difference, I try. Sometimes I have to be content with the knowledge that things are unlikely to change, but if nothing else, by making my concerns public I have preserved my right to say "I told you so."

Then there are those times I stand up just because others need me to be the lightening rod. I'm happy to be that. I've been at this institution for 37 years, and the one thing that is a constant is that no matter how bad (or how good, unfortunately) things are, they will change. If my efforts can hasten that in some small way, then that's great. If not, I can be content with knowing I tried.

So what's the lesson? Well ... like our westbound feathered friend - we should never be afraid to try, regardless of the forces arrayed against us. You can't always win, but you will always feel better about yourself.

TGB   

01 December, 2011

{this memory} 28

That's a lot of bear for such a little girl.

I'm thinking this was about 1982. My daughter looks to be about one, and if my memory isn't too feeble I bought this bear for her on her first birthday.

In 1980 a new mall - Sangertown Square - opened in my area, although after a very contentious construction since it was built on former wetlands. One of the anchor stores was a Hess's department store - where they have "the best of everything." In addition, one of the things they prided themselves on was that everything was for sale, even items that were essentially fixtures.

That's where the bear comes into play. I had noticed it in the store where it was used to draw attention to the children's section. It was certainly the largest stuffed animal I had ever seen, and I had to have it for my daughter. I asked for a price, and after a while, they managed to come up with one. It was acceptable, so I bought the bear. Simple.

That's when the real fun began. First, I had to carry that humongous bear out of the store and to my car. I did get a few odd stares, but who cares, really? Second, I had to wedge it into the passenger seat of the Datsun 280Z I was driving at that time. It was not an easy fit to say the least, and I somehow managed the 25 mile drive home without having to look out of the passenger window. He didn't say a word the whole way.

My daughter loved it. You can see that in her face, and although she is gone most of the year, the bear still lives upstairs in this home.

I can look back on many happy memories. I am truly a fortunate man.
TGB

PS: Hess's closed in 1994 and was replaced by a Kaufmann's. Today it is a Macy's.

30 November, 2011

Good Gift Hunting

Santa is clearly on his way, and the dust - or the ribbon perhaps - is beginning to fly. Holy charge card, shoppers! Everything is flying - including the pepper spray at one Black Friday event. There is something fundamentally wrong with this story.

We need to change the script, but it will be increasingly difficult over the next few weeks to find those quiet moments where one has opportunity to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and the spirit of giving. One element of that meaning for me is the love which often goes into finding the perfect gift. Some of our compatriots, however, evidently get their warm glow from pepper spray rather than from their hearts. Sigh. It's not what I wish for you. Fill your heart with love and find a way to share it - even if the gift is simply telling someone about it.

My family studiously avoids shopping on Black Friday, but let's face it - sometimes it is easy to shop for me, sometimes it isn't. Black Friday, however, is no solution. To help, I have occasionally shared hints, and it was in that spirit that I wrote one of my daughters last year to offer a suggestion.

For years I had searched for a particular surgical tool that was used in performing transorbital lobotomies. Frontal lobotomies had been around for a while but were complicated and expensive treatments for mental illness.

A physician named Freeman invented a procedure that was brief and inexpensive because the frontal lobes were accessed by going over the eyeball and up through the relatively thin bone of the top of the eye socket (the orbit). It came to be known as the "Ice Pick" lobotomy because the initial tool was, in fact, an ice pick and because the instruments he then had crafted still resembled one. Freeman performed nearly 2500 of these lobotomies in 23 states from the 1930s to the 1950s.

No. I'm not planning on opening a clinic. It just that in my teaching I spend some time on this topic to emphasize the horror of psychosurgery, and it's always nice to have visual aids - to bring the point home, so to speak. It's why I have a phrenology skull and a zoëtrope among other items in my historical collection.

I looked everywhere for antique and vintage surgical tools. No luck. Not even close. I tried Hollywood prop shops, thinking that since I had seen them in movies, I might find one there. No luck. The daughter I wrote with my suggestion is a physician, and I thought she might have access to sources that I did not. Evidently she had no luck either after replicating each of my efforts.

Then my daughter did what I did not. She posted this on Etsy's Alchemy space where buyers could post requests for custom items.

Metalsmith Project - Replica Leucotome or Orbitoclast

I am looking for someone to make a replica of either a leucotome or an orbitoclast, the antique medical instrument used by Dr. Walter Freeman in transorbital lobotomies.

My father is a professor of psychology who teaches the history of psychology and psychiatry. His dearest wish for Christmas is to have one of these surgical instruments to show his students. I have utterly failed at locating an original/antique, so I'm now hoping to present him with a true-size replica.


Imagine my surprise when last Christmas morning I opened a gift from my daughter that contained just such a leucotome. She told me the gentleman who made it had made a number of metal instruments over the years and was familiar with this item, having seen it in a nearby museum. The version with which I was presented is the last Freeman model - a sturdier instrument used by him after an earlier version broke off in someone's skull.

Anyway - back to Christmas giving. It's such a wonderful feeling to give or to receive that perfect gift - although giving is my preference. For me, it comes from the thought and effort behind the gift, not the gift itself. The gift just symbolizes it. Love does that; it's a genuine wonder. When it happens, you are simply filled with the joy and the spirit that is so remarkable at this time of year.

I hope your Christmas overflows with joy and love this year. Mine will - and not solely because some one gave me the perfect present. After all, it's in the giving where we find the greatest gift. Such delicious irony.
TGB   

29 November, 2011

Sunshine Superman


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sorry - it's not a post about Donovan, although that's not a bad idea. This post concerns a blogging award I was given a few days ago - the Sunshine Award - thanks to Joy of Catharsis. who writes a wonderful blog and is herself the epitome of sunshine.

So, here are the rules for accepting this award:

       1. Thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it.
       2. Answer the following questions below.
       3. Pass the award to as many as a dozen inspiring bloggers,
            link to their, and let them know you gave them the award.

Here are the questions and my answers.

       Favorite color: Blue - always has been, and it's unlikely to change
       Favorite animal: Domesticated - big dogs. Wild - lions and whales
       Favorite number: 3
       Favorite drink: Not an easy choice because it depends on the time of
       day, location, presence of others or food. Could be a big bold dry red
       wine, a flavor-filled dark beer, an iced sweet tea, a Coca Cola, or a
       glass of cool water
       Facebook or Twitter: Facebook
       Your passion: Life
       Giving or Receiving Gifts: Giving, absolutely
       Favorite day: The current one
       Favorite flowers: Red Roses, Calla Lily, Wisteria, Daisy, Aster

And now to spread the sunshine - just not at this time! Those I would nominate today have all just received this award. In the near future, I'm certain there will be some blogs that I discover and want to tell you about. I'll give them this award and let you know about it.
TGB   

28 November, 2011

{this moment} 28

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.

{this moment}
Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.
TGB   

27 November, 2011

Ten Years, Two Words

There was a man who was fed up with modern society, and decided to become a Monk. He checked out a number of monasteries and chose one he liked. The only reservation he had was that he was required to take a vow of silence. He could only say two words every ten years.

He took the vow and began his first ten years of service without saying a word. At the end of ten long years, he was brought before the abbot of the monastery and asked what two words he would like to say.

His response was "FOOD BAD."

And that was it - for a second long ten years - until he was once again allowed to say another two words. After twenty years he was brought before the abbot of the monastery and asked what two words he would like to say.

His response was "BED HARD."

And that was it - for a third long ten years - until he was once again allowed to say another two words. After thirty years he was brought before the abbot of the monastery and asked what two words he would like to say.

His response was "I QUIT."

The abbot answered back, "You might as well. You've done nothing but complain since you got here."
Author Unknown   

25 November, 2011

The Conifer Strikes Back

Today I offer my annual post honoring Tree Day, and today is Tree Day - at least a Tree Day of sorts anyway. Let me explain.

In July 1985, we moved into our current home after nearly nine months of arduous construction - although I still had all ten fingers. We had a large party at Christmas for the faculty I led at the time. Given there were to be many first time guests, our tree was, of course, a huge deal, and we had selected a beautiful one from a seasonal lot in town.

Within a week, however, you could hear the needles dropping. Dink. Dink. Plink. I resolved then that Christmas of 1986 would be different. We were heading into the wilds to cut a fresh tree, one that we could put up early and leave up for a while without fear of incineration.

That's easy in Central New York. Most would call this area "Upstate"- unless you're from New York City, and in that case, anything north of 263rd Street qualifies as Upstate. After all, if your uncle had been sent "up the river" to Sing Sing prison, he went to Ossining. Way way upstate. In fact, a full 20 miles north of Yonkers. But ... I digress. The point is there are farms selling Christmas trees everywhere in our area. No shortage whatsoever.

We decided our Tree Day would be on Black Friday since we avoided those crazed masses anyway. We selected a farm somewhat at random, but it was over the river even though not quite through the woods. Children bundled (ages 3 and 5 then). Check. Wife gloved, coated, and scarved (younger then). Check. Uncle with station wagon (less cranky then). Check. Saw (sharper then). Check. Tape measure (newer then). Check. And we're off.

We parked and began the hike - about a quarter mile uphill. That was easy enough, but it doesn't include the 15-20 miles we walked around and among the trees as my wife looked for the Perfect Tree. She finally located a beautiful blue spruce - tall and full. I proceeded to saw it down, but that's when I learned that because we were "early" (i.e., before the official season opening), I would have to lug that monster back down the hill. I was sure glad to have an uncle with me, but the tree was having its revenge! I should add that this 12 foot beauty cost only $20, and I can't imagine what it would have set us back on a tree lot in town.

That became the pattern for the next few years until my brother-in-law plus family decided to join us. Then a couple of years later my sister-in-law's sister jumped on board with her family. Now we were six adults (seven, depending on my uncle's mood) and seven offspring. Even the occasional dog or two.

We had a tradition emerging. Tree Day would be the day after Thanksgiving each year. We would get an early jump on the cutting, return to our respective homes to get, at minimum, the trees in their stands, and then reassemble at one of the three homes for food and drink and a viewing of White Christmas - which at some point became Christmas Vacation.

The tradition has fallen on hard times. My sister-in-law's sister has divorced, and her children became adults. She is no longer part of the tradition. My sister-in-law has purchased an artificial tree. Scheduling has become harder too now that the children are all adults with jobs and their own commitments or in-laws.

But Tree Day lives on. The Browns began it, and the Browns continue it although for health reasons I generally wait for their return with the tree. My wife and daughter (with boyfriend) will proceed to cut our tree this year - the 26th Brown outing. As always, it will be large - about 12 feet tall and full, and fully decorated it gives the White House tree a run for its money. Speaking of money, we still pay under $30 for a huge tree.

And ... Saturday will be Tree Day with the rest of the extended family. We'll gather and eat and drink and watch Christmas Vacation. The date is now arbitrary, but we still take the time to enjoy each other's love and usually reminisce a bit about Tree Days Past. When the decorations come down and when both this tree and this Christmas are just another memory, it is that love and the sharing in each other's Journey that will remain. After all, this is what is most important. Isn't it?
TGB   

24 November, 2011

Thanks Are Given

There is much in life easily taken for granted, and it's not difficult to overlook the bounty I have been given. Today is a good day to count blessings. They are many - not the least of which is that I am alive, no small miracle having survived several illnesses that many do not. What follows is my traditional Thanksgiving post. It's a continuing affirmation for me as well as a reminder of the many things for which I should be thankful.

I am thankful for the wonders of human inspiration -
music and lighthouses, art and literature, swings and laughter.

I am thankful for the everyday beauty of nature -
the seasons, the azure sky, the starry night, the boundless oceans,
the warmth of the sun on my face,
the sounds of birds, the caress of a breeze.

I am thankful for the blessings of friendship -
old friends embraced anew
and newer friends willing to nourish my aging soul.

I am thankful for the comfort of family -
a loving wife and two wonderful daughters,
a mother, a brother, an extended family of cousins and others -
all of whom love me as much as I love them.

I am thankful for the opportunity to work -
in spite of physical challenges.
Blessed with a sound mind and an excellent education,
I discovered my calling in a world of ideas rather than manual labor.

I am thankful for the warmth of my home -
a peaceful haven, a shelter from all manner of storm.

I am thankful for the food on my table -
especially so when that involves
cheese or olives or bread.

And wine.
Really.


TGB

23 November, 2011

{this memory} 27

I'll keep this brief since a few of you think you need to get in line today for Friday's shopping.

In the image you see my wife and two daughters walking - perhaps skipping - down our driveway in September of 1986. Although we had been in this home for 15 months, we had not yet landscaped. It's quite obvious; the weeds are taller than my girls.

It's the first day of school which explains the number card on my older daughter. She is about to catch the bus for the first time and head off to kindergarten. She is excited to go - hence the happy feet. Looks like younger sister is happy too.

I can look back on many happy memories, and what happier memories can there be than of watching two beautiful young girls grow into beautiful accomplished women? I am a fortunate man, and I am thankful for the incredible bounty that has come my way.
TGB

22 November, 2011

222 Years Later

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be, that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks:
    - for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation;
    - for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war;
    - for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed;
    - for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted;
    - for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;
    - and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us;

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions:
    - to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually;
    - to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed;
    - to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord;
    - to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us;
    - and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

21 November, 2011

{this moment} 27

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.

{this moment}
Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.
TGB   

20 November, 2011

Locked Out

woman was at work when she learned that her daughter was very sick with a fever. She left work and stopped by the pharmacy for some medication. Returning to her car, she realized her keys were locked in the car.

She didn't know what to do, so she called home and told the baby sitter what had happened. The baby sitter told her that the fever was getting worse and said, "You might find a coat hanger and use that to open the door."

The woman looked around and found an old rusty coat hanger that had been thrown down on the ground, possibly by someone else who had locked their keys in their car. Then she looked at the hanger and said, "I don't know how to use this."

So she bowed her head and asked God to send her some help. Within five minutes an old rusty car pulled up with a dirty, greasy, bearded man who was wearing an old biker skull rag on his head. The woman thought, "This is what you sent to help me?" But she was desperate, so she was also very thankful.

The man got out of his car and asked her if he could help. She said, "Yes, my daughter is very sick. I stopped to get her some medication, and I locked my keys in my car. I must get home to her. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?"

He said, "Sure." He walked over to the car, and immediately the car was opened. She hugged the man and through her tears she said, "Thank you so much! You are a very nice man."

The man replied, "Lady, I am not a nice man. I just got out of prison today. I was in prison for car theft and have only been out for about an hour."

The woman hugged the man again and with sobbing tears cried out loud, "Oh, Thank you God! You even sent me a Professional!"
Author Unknown   

18 November, 2011

Pump Up The Volume

A good blogging friend recently challenged us to come up the one song that really gets you going when you need it - your personal Pep Song. Rocky always had a great one, but I had trouble doing this. I narrowed it to two possibilities and responded with that, but it's too narrow for me. I scanned my iTunes files (over 6000 songs) and found well over a dozen that all served to put me, as she wrote, "in a positive and 'watch-out-world-I'm-so-ready-for-you' mood"

One thing that did occur to me as I scanned those songs was music's inherent ability to control my mood. It didn't matter what mood or emotion I wanted to dial up - I easily could find an artist or a series of songs that woud get me there.

But back to my Pep Song. Er, Songs. It was a struggle; I had sixteen. I chopped four by restricting artists to only one song in my list and chopped three more because they just didn't quite measure up to the others from the perspective of "pump-me-up-ability" - not that I don't love the songs though.

Here are my top nine and in roughly this order, but the order could easily be different tomorrow.

1. John Fogerty - Centerfield


2. The Eagles - Life in the Fast Lane


3. Fleetwood Mac - Don't Stop


4. Dire Straits - Walk of Life


5. Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band - Old Time Rock and Roll


6. The Rolling Stones - Start Me Up

7. The Doobie Brothers - China Road

8. Shania Twain - Rock This Country


9. Huey Lewis and the News - Heart of Rock and Roll
(takes about a minute to get rockin')


The three that almost made it are: Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama; Crosby, Stills, and Nash - Love the One You're With; and The Who - Who Are You.

And the doubles I arbitrarily chopped: Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way; Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band - Rock and Roll Never Forgets; The Rolling Stones - Satisfaction; and The Eagles - Take It Easy.

Don't mess with me - I'm pumped, world.
TGB   

17 November, 2011

{this memory} 26

Yes, it is - it is exactly what you think. You could call it a two-holer, although duplex would be more accurate. Call it what you will - a privy, an outhouse, the necessary, the dunny, thunderbox, biffy, kybo, can, john, throne - whatever makes you most comfortable.

These are behind my paternal grandmother's home in Naylor, Missouri. Her third husband (not my grandfather) was a blacksmith, and today the home is Clutterʼs Blacksmith Shop Museum. It was a working shop up into the late 1950s, but several years after my grandmother died it was dedicated by relatives as a museum to be held in trust. The original forge, still operable, is a brick forge with a side draft masonry chimney and has a variable speed electric draft fan. You can more about my visits there in {This Memory} 11.

I can remember using these outhouses as a young boy in the 1950s and, I think (not sure), during my last visit to my grandmother in 1976. The large shed beside them in the photo was a later addition. There was running water in the house, but not much - just at the kitchen sink and for a shower in the basement under the sink. Not a lot of plumbing. I also remember that we didn't use the outhouse at night; that's what the chamber pots were for. Ah, the good old days.

I took this photo in 2005 when my wife and I were driving around America. Okay, let's be honest - I was driving. She, therefore, had to go where I wanted, and I wanted her to see some of my boyhood haunts, to see what made the man. I'm happy to say she has fully recovered.

I am a fortunate man. I can look back on many happy memories, and as odd as it might seem, this is actually one of them. If nothing else, it fosters an appreciation for what one has in life.
TGB

16 November, 2011

50 First Drafts

The is the time of semester when the hallways and offices are filled with advice. Course scheduling for the spring semester is upon us, and our students are asking us questions to confirm they will be enrolled in the courses they need to achieve their goals or too often, sadly, the goals of their parents. They're also asking their peers what courses to avoid or, more likely, what professors to avoid.

It's an interesting time, especially for our newest students - mostly freshmen. We are a few weeks past the point of no return when they can no longer withdraw from a class to avoid an anticipated "F." They are worried about how they are doing and frequently uneasy about the challenges ahead. So often I hear a student remark, "but I have never received a 'C.'" Or a "D." Or whatever. "It's terrible." They are being intellectually challenged and perhaps genuinely so for the first time.

I am thinking of one student with whom I spent some time last week. He was concerned with the high cost of college and the work load, and he was very anxious about whether he would get the high grades expected of him, grades that would make the investment worthwhile.

Searching my own experiences, I tried to find a story which would help ease some of those concerns and remembered a story I had read nearly two decades ago. I told him about a time when Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State, was a professor at Harvard and had asked an assistant to prepare an analysis on some incident that had occurred in the Viet Nam War.

This assistant worked night and day for a week and had the document delivered to Dr. Kissinger’s desk only to receive it back within an hour. Attached to the report was a note asking that it be redone.

The assistant dutifully redid it and supposedly slept a total of only nine hours for a week. The document again went to Dr. Kissinger’s desk, and an hour later it was returned with a note from Dr. Kissinger asserting that he expected better and asking that the work be done again.

And so the assistant went back to the drawing board once more. Another week of intense work. Then the assistant asked if he might present it personally to Dr. Kissinger. When he came face to face with Kissinger, he said, “Dr. Kissinger, I’ve spent another sleepless week. This is the best I can do.” The professor said, “In that case, now I’ll read it.”

I told the student not to worry about the grades. Just do the best that he could - that was all that mattered. And if he did his best, his parents would be proud of him, and so would I.

I hope he and all our students remember this is what is really important. It's not about the grades; it's about what you learn. Just do your best. Give it 100%. Everything else will follow, and it will all be worth the investment.
TGB